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Peacock’s preems

Debates, baseball force staggered NBC bows

Perhaps they should call it “premiere month” instead of “premiere week”: NBC has officially announced it will stagger its fall series launches throughout October to avoid competing with baseball playoff coverage and political debate schedules.

While candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore continue to bicker over when, where and how to stage this year’s presidential debates, the Peacock has decided to avoid the fray altogether.

The nonpartisan Presidential Debate Commission has scheduled Bush-Gore face-offs on Oct. 3, 11 and 17, and a vice presidential smackdown on Oct. 5. The Oct. 3 and 5 meetings, in particular, coincide with the first week of the season.

While Fox and CBS have announced series premieres on those dates (subject to change, of course), NBC had already been forced to delay its premieres until later in the month because of baseball pre-emptions in mid-October.

NBC’s Wednesday debuts are still subject to the whims of the prexy candidates, however. If Gore and Bush greenlight the Wednesday, Oct. 11 debates, then the Peacock’s Wednesday sked returns on Oct. 4 with a two-hour “The West Wing,” while “Law & Order” would be preempted.

But if no debate is skedded on Oct. 11, then NBC is expected to break “The West Wing’s” season opener into two parts — an hourlong opening on Oct. 4, and part two on Oct. 11. “Law & Order,” then, would be available to premiere on Oct. 4 as well.

As for the other nights, NBC had already booked season premieres on Monday, Oct. 2 (including new entries “Tucker” and “Deadline”); Friday, Oct. 20; Saturday, Oct. 21 (the feature “Bridges of Madison County,” with host Ryan Seacrest); and Sunday, Oct. 8 (including the new drama “Ed”) (Daily Variety, Aug. 21).

End-of-month preems

The Peacock will unveil its Tuesday lineup on Oct. 24, including the new “Michael Richards Show” and an hourlong “Frasier.” Frosh laffer “DAG” debuts the following week, Oct. 31.

Thursdays return Oct. 12, including the newcomer “Cursed.”

ABC is now the last of the webs to announce its fall roll-out dates — even though one of its nights, Monday, has already had its season premiere. The Alphabet web is expected to place a guesstimate on its premieres as soon as today.

But like all the webs, ABC is still holding out for the presidential candidates to figure out their debate dates. The Alphabet web doesn’t want to premiere its one new drama, “Gideon’s Crossing,” on Wednesday, Oct. 4, if the show will have to be preempted the following week for Bush vs. Gore.

ABC execs say they’d like to roll-out their new series during premiere week — but Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will have to wait if the debate commission’s dates are honored by both candidates.

Most observers still expect the commission-sponsored debates to occur as scheduled, despite Bush’s well-publicized reluctance to take part. Indeed, sources say the debate commission has been busy handling pre-production at the debate sites, despite the uncertainty.

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